Effective Spring Garden Shopping

04/28/2012 | Ken Lain, mountain gardener Garden Tools & Supplies, Uncategorized

Following a winter in our Arizona mountains we gardeners are eager to get back into our yards. With hundreds, even thousands, of tempting plant choices now in bloom at garden centers, this “back to the earth” impulse can bring on severe shopping anxiety. With so many plants that are right for the area a garden center can be overwhelming.
So, to turn your first spring nursery visit from problematic to utter pleasure, simply follow these smart but simple suggestions:

Photograph and measure containers. Clean your pots and place them where they will be positioned for the season. Take a picture and print it; then pencil the correct width and depth of each pot. Check to see if their saucers are merely damaged or cracked enough to warrant replacement. With these bits of information you’ll be able to ask for specific help at the garden center and take home the perfect plants in the right quantities.

Recall last year’s garden. Photographs are the best means to jog your memory about those lackluster plants that should be replaced or those that need to be moved, divided, or supplemented with new additions. Garden journals also are good sources for details of last year’s garden.

Determine colors. Choose foliage and bloom colors that make you feel good. Get inspiration from famous gardens and from a neighborhood garden. For inspiration to make color choices, look to a favorite painting or outfit of clothing or to pictures torn from magazines. The colors you choose set the tone and emotion of your garden.

Assemble possible plant purchases. Instead of carrying plants back and forth at the garden center as you consider them, place the plants on your shopping cart. Use part of your cart as an audition area, arranging plants as you would in a bed or container. When you find interesting new plants swap them around to see which you like best.

Walk the whole garden center. A nursery is far more than a collection of annual flowers. Cruise the whole store to discover and create interesting additions to your garden. Explore tropicals, houseplants, perennials, and succulents for your porch or patio. Look for attractive flowers, fruits, and foliage that complement each other. Try bringing edibles into the mix. Nothing screams ‘Southwest style’ like the blue of an artichoke plant in a container spilling over with strawberry plants that are setting fruit. In other words, get creative!

Try something new each season. We all have our favorites, but should leave 20% of a garden’s space for experimenting. Trying new varieties really brings out the gardener within each of us. Have fun, reach out, and “live on the edge” of your plant world.

Shop all season. Because of our mild temperatures you’ll find that local nurseries offer new stock all season long. Keep in mind that: you’ll find fresh annuals after the early planting season is over, perennials have their best show in June, and larger specimen plants are available in summer. Make a point of browsing the nursery each season as the plant mix changes.

Let the artist within you sparkle. Drawing close to Mother’s Day centers will fill their aisles with large pots brim-full of blooms in instant party colors. If you find a pre-planted cachepot you like, simply drop it into your own glazed container. There are no rules here, so express the artistic touch that suits your needs.

~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~

Garden Alert! A wave of local gardeners has brought in samples of severe thrip damage. This early spring pest is wreaking havoc on flowers and new spring foliage. Flowers are fading within days, new leaves becoming wrinkled and deformed. The other name for this flying pest is the ‘No See-um’. They can bite your skin causing red welts, which is exactly what your plants feel as this tiny insect feeds on your landscape. The naked eye is hard pressed to see this little pest on plants, but invaded foliage tapped over a plain white sheet of paper will reveal the frantically jumping red dust-like creatures.

Captain Jack’s Dead Bug Brew is the only insect control that knocks these creatures into submission. Spray your infected plants until dripping wet and the problem is averted. Repeat application in two weeks and your plants will breath a sigh of relief.

~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~

A highlight of spring is the familiar thrill of herb gardens returning for another season of useful enjoyment. Spring Bee Lavender, the most exotic of the lavenders, produces super-sized deep purple flowers that fill the landscape with a natural lavender scent. This lavender looks great as a container accent, but is rugged enough to serve as an outstanding mailbox sentinel. Any lavender is indispensable in the herb garden but here’s the best attribute of these beauties: Animals, including javalinas, absolutely, positively will not eat or bother this herb!

~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~

If you are new to the area I encourage you to arrive prepared when visiting you local garden center. Plant identifications are only certain from a picture or, better yet, from a sample carried in a plastic bag so we can actually see the foliage. A bagged sample is especially important for identifying insect issues. It’s been fun to use the new i-Pad 3s at the garden center. The pictures are so crisp and clean and far easier to see than those on a smartphone. Having a large picture of a customer’s landscape is almost like being right in that yard!

Until next week, I’ll see you in the garden center.